Pelvic floor exercises: Who can benefit and how to do them


  • Pelvic floor exercises can help either strengthen or relax your pelvic muscles. 
  • Your pelvic floor muscles help support your intestines, bladder, vagina, uterus, cervix, rectum, and prostate. 
  • Doing pelvic floor exercises can help prevent bowel or bladder leakages, relieve pain in your pelvis, and prevent prolapse.
  • If you’ve given birth recently, had pelvic surgery, or are approaching menopause, pelvic floor exercises could benefit you.  

Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles at the bottom of your torso. Shaped like a hammock, or sling, it supports all your pelvic organs, which include your intestines, bladder, urethra, and rectum. Pelvic organs also include the vagina, cervix, uterus, and the prostate.

Pelvic floor exercises are meant to either strengthen or relax your pelvic muscles. They can help reduce bladder and bowel leakages and relieve pelvic pain. They can also prevent pelvic organ prolapse, which is a condition where the pelvic organs start descending downward because the pelvic muscles are not strong enough to hold them up.

While pelvic floor exercises are generally geared towards folks  who have recently given birth, experiencing vaginal pain, or are approaching menopause, others  can also benefit from them too, in the aftermath of pelvic surgeries, and with erectile functioning issues for instance. 

Here are some pelvic floor relaxation and strengthening exercises you can try at home. You may need to consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist  about which types of exercises are appropriate for you and whether you require any other treatment. Sometimes pelvic floor muscles don’t need to be strengthened, but instead need to be relaxed. 

What are pelvic floor exercises?

Think of your pelvis as a house for several critical organs and your pelvic floor as the foundation, or base, of the house. Your pelvic floor muscles act as the support structure that holds everything in place. Pelvic floor exercises are designed to strengthen or relax these muscles. 

“When people think of pelvic floor exercises they often think of kegels,” says Stephanie Prendergast, MPT, cofounder of the Pelvic Health & Rehabilitation Center. However Kegels are only one type of exercise for your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor exercises include other types of exercises as well, like exercises that help relax your pelvic floor muscles if they’re too tight. 

Pelvic floor exercises feel similar to stopping your urine mid-flow. Relaxing and tightening the muscles that control the flow of your urine can help you identify your pelvic floor muscles. Once you’ve identified them, it’s not recommended to do pelvic floor exercises while you’re urinating because frequently stopping your urine stream can make it difficult for you to empty your bladder completely in the future. This can put you at risk for urinary tract infections.

Why are pelvic floor exercises beneficial?

“People with weak pelvic floor muscles should do pelvic strengthening exercises like Kegels,” says Prendergast. According to her, these people may include:

  • Those  who have recently given birth, regardless of the method of delivery (i.e vaginally or via c-section)
  • People  who are approaching menopause
  • People with vaginas  who have had pelvic surgeries such as hysterectomies or pelvic organ prolapse repairs
  • People with penises  who have had pelvic surgeries such as prostatectomies

Prendergast says that strengthening weak pelvic floor muscles can help:

  • Reduce bladder and bowel leaks
  • Protect against pelvic organ prolapse, which is a condition where the pelvic organs start gravitating downward because the pelvic muscles are not strong enough to support them
  • Relieve lower back pain in the event of pelvic floor dysfunction

However, the tricky part is to determine whether your pelvic floor muscles are too weak or too tight. “Some people with pelvic pain have pelvic floor muscles that are too tight. They can benefit from exercises that relax their muscles. If they have pelvic floor tightness, doing kegels and strengthening exercises can make their symptoms worse,” says Prendergast. She recommends seeing a trained professional for an accurate diagnosis.

According to Prendergast, relaxing tight pelvic floor muscles can help:

  • Reduce leakage or incontinence
  • Relieve pelvic pain
  • Ease constipation
  • Improve tolerance to sexual activity and gynecological exams

What’s the best kind of pelvic floor exercises? 

Prendergast recommends these exercises for pelvic floor strengthening and relaxation. The exercises don’t require any equipment and can be done at home. 

To make sure you’re doing the exercises right, you can insert a finger into your vagina or rectum and then tighten your muscles, as though you’re trying to avoid passing gas or stop urinating. You should feel the muscles contract and relax.

Pelvic floor relaxation exercises

Exercise 1: Pelvic floor drop

  • Lie down on your back or sit in a deep squat.
  • Imagine that there’s a balloon in your lower abdomen.
  • As you breathe in, picture the balloon expanding out through your belly and down through your pelvic floor. 
  • As you breathe out, try to keep everything relaxed and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this exercise as many times as you can and try to do it multiple times a day.

Exercise 2: Deep passive squat

  • Keep your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointed outward at a 45 degree angle.
  • Lower yourself into a squat and keep going all the way down until you’re sitting with your butt hovering above the floor between your heels. 
  • Adjust the distance between your feet until you’re comfortable but make sure your feet remain flat on the ground. 
  • Breathe deeply in and out and try to relax the muscles in your lower body. 
  • Hold the position for 30 to 90 seconds. Stop if you feel any discomfort.

Exercise 3: Child’s pose

  • Kneel down on the floor. 
  • Sit back on your heels, with your feet together and your knees hip-width apart. 
  • Fold your body forward over your thighs and rest your forehead on the floor. 
  • You can place your hands behind your back, by your side, or stretched out in front of you. 
  • Hold the position for 30 to 90 seconds. Stop if you feel any discomfort.

Pelvic floor strengthening exercises

Prendergast recommends doing these exercises every day at first. Once your muscles get stronger, you can reduce the frequency to two to three times a week.

Exercise 1: Kegels

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent. 
  • Take a deep belly breath in for four seconds and then slowly exhale for four seconds.
  • On the exhale, draw your belly button inward. 
  • Relax everything and repeat two more times, keeping your focus on your pelvic floor muscles, feeling them contract and relax. 
  • Next, repeat the belly breath and on the exhale, slowly draw your belly button inwards and tighten and hold your pelvic floor muscles, as if you are trying to stop your urine stream. 
  • Relax and repeat. Do this exercise every day, as many times as you can while maintaining good form. 

Exercise 2: Roll ins

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Place a pillow between your knees.
  • Make sure your feet are planted wider than your knees.
  • As you exhale, draw your belly button inwards and gently squeeze the pillow for five seconds. 
  • Relax and repeat. Do three sets of 10 repetitions every day.

Exercise 3: Roll outs

  • Lie on your back. 
  • Bend your knees and place a resistance band around your thighs.
  • Keep your feet together.
  • As you exhale, draw your belly button inwards and rotate your thighs away from one another.
  • Relax and repeat. Do three sets of 10 repetitions every day.

Apart from these, you can also do some core exercises to help strengthen your pelvic floor, like:

  • Planks
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Hip bridges

Insider’s takeaway

Pelvic pain and incontinence can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. However pelvic floor exercises can provide some relief and improvement by helping you either relax or strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. They are easy to do and don’t require any equipment. If you do the exercises regularly, you should see results, like less urine leakage, within 12 weeks.



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